Is he a point guard or is he an off the ball guard?
Frank Ntilikina seems to be the topic of discussion for roughly 75% of the conversation these days among Knicks fans and even general fans that want to input their two-cents about what his role should be. Taken as the 8th pick of last year’s draft, some feel that he hasn’t lived up to expectation to this point. They aren’t necessarily wrong. But Ntilikina definitely has a place moving forward with the Knicks franchise.
Let’s remember that he’s 20 years old for a second. It is very difficult for anyone in any sort of career to move to a foreign country, learn a new language and adjust to the lifestyle at 20 years old. And now, in his second year, he’s already experienced a coaching change. That’s difficult for most point guards to adjust to a new offense and it has certainly affected Frank. Coach Fiz loves his guards to be ultra aggressive, looking for space in transition to attack the basket and being threats to get to the rim in pick n roll situations. To this point, it’s not in Frank’s DNA to be ultra aggressive. He’s so cerebral in his play, you can practically see him thinking out on the court. Admittedly, this is an aspect of his game that he will need to learn and the coaching staff will help him adjust his mindset.
Although his past few games have seen his production dwindle a bit, he’s still much more aggressive and approaching the game in a different manner than he used to. Since his 3 DNPs, he’s shooting 39% from 3, per basketball references. He’s shown the ability to play off the ball too when another point guard such as Mudiay is in the game as well. Early on in the season, he seemed resigned to just standing in the corner when not running point guard, rendering him even less aggressive than we’ve been accustomed to. Moving forward, he should project nicely as a combo guard, someone who is more than capable of running the offense and setting up his teammates, but also somebody that can slide off the ball and consistently knock down open jumpers.
The constant talk of Frank’s offense also overshadows just how good he is on defense. Any team that has hopes of being a contender needs someone that can take on difficult assignments and defend the pick n roll. He’s excellent as a perimeter defender and his wingspan helps him against some bulkier players in the paint. Now for someone as long as him, he could do a better job on the defensive glass, as his 1.9 rebounds per game show.
In the end, Knicks fans should be happy to be in a position to watch the franchise develop someone who is undoubtably talented and home grown. Too many times we have seen young players get traded and given up on in the early stages of their careers. Frank is going to be fine and as the season progress, so will his game.